Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Heading into the holidays with red-tails Christo and Amelia

Hawk activity is ramping up as we head into the winter holidays. This is usually the time of year when we can expect to see more of our local red-tailed hawk pair, Christo and Amelia, around Tompkins Square Park.

I caught up with them on December 17 as they enjoyed the view from one of their favorite perches, the roof of the Christadora building on Avenue B. Amelia is on the left and Christo is on the right.

Amelia and Christo

For better context, I took some video which shows how far above the park they are.

At some point, they both flew across the park to Avenue A to another of their favorite hangouts, the cross of St Nicholas of Myra church.

Christo and Amelia 

Christo looks on as Amelia makes her landing.

Christo and Amelia

Christo and Amelia

Eventually, Christo took off and flew over me.


Amelia soon followed and that was the last I saw of them that day.


On December 21, I found Christo just as he caught a small rat. He took it to a quiet perch to eat without being disturbed.

Christo with rat dinner

Christo with rat dinner

He's looking as good as ever.


Done with dinner, he headed out.


Back up on the Avenue A cross, Christo and Amelia met up for their regular end-of-day confab.

Christo and Amelia

They were soon joined by a flock of Canada geese.

Christo, Amelia and a flock of geese

After Christo went off to roost, Amelia stayed and seemed preoccupied by something. I thought she was hunting pigeons, but the pigeons were already agitated and she seemed to be looking beyond them.

Amelia with pigeons

I missed it with the camera, but an immature red-tail swooped in and grabbed a pigeon right in front of Amelia! That is what she'd been watching and I couldn't believe she let it happen. The young hawk perched with its prize on a roof that was on the same block as the church.

If you look closely, you can see the gray tail feathers of the pigeon sticking out between the hawk's wing and tail.

Immature red-tail with pigeons

Amelia stayed on the cross screaming at the intruder, but it totally ignored her and sat there for about ten minutes before taking its meal to another building. I was surprised a fierce hawk like Amelia would allow an intruder to take food right in front of her, then hang around in her territory. Could this be one of her offspring? Unfortunately, I have no way of knowing, but it was interesting to note how Amelia never made a move on the young hawk.

Immature red-tail with pigeon prey

There have been reports of increased hawk activity in neighboring Washington and Union Square Parks, so they're definitely around, gearing up for nesting season which should start in January or February. We have this to look forward to in the new year.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

A successful nesting season for a red-tailed hawk family in Queens

Back in May, the city was hot, humid, and suffering through the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. Being outdoors was essential for maintaining my physical and mental health, but some parts of the city, like my local Tompkins Square Park, were too crowded for my comfort. Although I was excited to see the Tompkins Square red-tailed hawk chicks thriving, I felt I couldn't spend as much time with my hawk family as in years past, especially on weekends when the park was especially busy.

A hawk-watcher contacted me and suggested I visit a red-tailed hawk family in Queens that had just hatched eggs. I was assured the location was in a large open area with plenty of space for safe and easy social distancing, so I decided to give it a try.

I ventured out there on May 2 and was delighted to find two nestlings.

Red-tailed hawk chicks

One of them stood up and stretched, revealing the first pin feathers growing in on the tips of its wings.

Red-tailed hawk chick

Mama hawk made a fly-by.

Adult red-tail in Queens

She soon brought some food to the nest. Two little fuzzy white heads can barely be seen behind the sticks.

Food delivery

Later, Dad paid a visit and then took off. If you look closely, you can see there are actually three tiny white heads in the nest.

Dad, Mom and 3 kids


Mr Red-Tail

Mom feeding lunch to the chicks:

Feeding time

Feeding time

Mom and 2 kids

I visited again a week later on May 9 to find all three chicks were clearly visible and one of them had some very advanced feather development.

Red-tail trio

Red-tail trio

I went back again on May 16 to find Mom still feeding the chicks, who now had dark feathers on their backs and wings, as well as a couple of inches of tail feathers.

Red-tailed hawk siblings

All three looked great.

Red-tailed hawk siblings

Returning on May 22, the oldest chick was really starting to look like an adult and practiced flapping its wings. It wouldn't be long until fledge time.

Red-tailed hawk family

By the time I returned on June 13, the chicks had already fledged, but were still in the immediate area. This one stared me down from its perch on a high ledge.

Red-tail fledgling

It was a very hot day, so this fledgling took a nap in the shade.

Red-tail fledgling napping on an i-beam

I looked around and found one of the other fledglings lounging on the top of a light fixture. I wouldn't have seen it up there if it didn't raise its head.

Red-tail fledgling lounging on a light fixture

People who live and work in the area told me a pair of hawks has been nesting here for years and they are local celebrities. It's always great to discover wildlife succeeding in the city, and I'm really glad to have been able to see this red-tailed hawk pair successfully raise a trio of fledglings this season.

You can see more photos of this hawk family on my Flickr page.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Hawk time

While passing through Tompkins Square Park earlier this last week, I found our resident red-tailed hawk pair, Amelia and Christo, perched on top of the Christodora building.

Amelia & Christo

Amelia is always on the north end while Christo takes the south. Even when only one hawk is perched up there, they take their preferred ends of the roof, so if you see one or both hawks on top of the building, you can identify them based on where they are sitting.

Late Thursday, I found an immature red-tail chowing down on a pigeon in a tree in the park. I was kind of surprised to see it as Christo and Amelia wouldn't like another red-tail in their territory, but they were not to be seen, so this hawk got away with sneaking a meal. As I watched, a young Cooper's hawk flew into the same tree and checked out the red-tail (I couldn't get a decent photo) before flying off towards 7th Street.

Immature red-tail

A few weeks ago, I ventured out to Governors Island on an extremely windy day. Sustained winds were 20+ MPH and the gusts were so strong, I could barely hold my camera steady. I was just about to give up and leave when one of the resident red-tails suddenly appeared right in front of me.

Red-tail with New York Harbor in the background

Both resident adult hawks appeared right over my head and I watched as they used the strong winds to enable them to hover in place, not having to flap their wings or use much effort at all. I love when they do this.

Red-tail flying past lower Manhattan

I watched as the hawks methodically floated over grassy areas of the island, presumably looking for prey. From my vantage point, I could capture them with the lower Manhattan skyline in the background. This is the male of the pair.

Male GI red-tail flying over lower Manhattan

Male GI red-tail flying over lower Manhattan

Both hawks came together over the water and caught the wind gusts which lifted them back up over the island. In the photo below, New Jersey is in the background.

Red-tailed hawk pair over New York Harbor

This is the male coming past me at eye-level. Note his light bright eyes and dark brown belly band. The sun is very bright, so his color looks a bit washed out, but in person, his head and belly band are quite dark.

Red-tailed hawk flying over New York Harbor

Taking a closer look.

Governors Island male red-tail

I like how his talons fold neatly under his tail.

Male red-tail of Governors Island

We check each other out.

Male red-tail of Governors Island

This is the female. Her head is a much lighter brown and her belly band is just a few faint markings.

Female red-tail of Governors Island

She kept turning her head to the side and looking down, scanning the landscape for anything interesting.

Female red-tail of Governors Island

She flew very low along the vegetation, taking closer looks. I saw her dive into the bushes once, but she didn't come up with anything.

Female red-tail of Governors Island

Checking me out.

Female red-tail of Governors Island

Windy days are usually good for seeing raptors like these. They take advantage of the wind and can soar without having to expend much energy. It's fun to watch them hover in place, then suddenly catch a gust of wind and be a mile away in seconds. It's days like these I wish I could experience that.

Friday, December 4, 2020

Autumn departs in a blast of color

I don't know if the pandemic has caused me to pay better attention this year, but the autumn leaf colors around the city have been spectacular.

NYC parks and streets were gorgeous this last month as the trees belted out one last hurrah with blasts of yellow, orange and red. I was on Governors Island late one afternoon just as the sun went down. When I passed through Nolan Park on my way back to the ferry, the shadows were long and I had about ten minutes to capture the stunning trees before it all went dark.

Fall foliage on Governors Island

The vibrant reds and oranges of the trees complemented the yellow houses.

Fall foliage on Governors Island

Fall foliage on Governors Island

I really don't remember the leaves being this beautiful in past years. Perhaps I'm just appreciating the beauty of nature more now that life has been turned upside-down these last several months.

Fall foliage on Governors Island

Fall foliage on Governors Island

Fall foliage on Governors Island

I really couldn't get enough!

Fall foliage on Governors Island

Fall foliage on Governors Island

This is looking towards Fort Jay about five minutes before the sun disappeared over the horizon.

Fall foliage on Governors Island

This is looking east along Colonels Row.

Fall on Governors Island

Fall foliage on Governors Island

This is a classic fall day in Queens. Because of the need for social distancing over the last several months, I had to seek out less populated places around the city to get some air.


I wasn't the only one. In NYC, you're never quite alone.



Again, I was captivated by the intense colors of plants and leaves.


This is a rainbow of ivy along a wall on First Avenue.


Even the birds brought the color - this Eastern Meadowlark showed off its bright yellow plumage as it foraged in the grass at Governors Island. I also saw one of these birds at Randalls Island as they made rest stops in the city during fall bird migration.

Eastern Meadowlark

It's been a difficult year, and spending time outdoors has been essential for well-being. Seeing the bright warm colors of fall has really been uplifting and healing. Be well, everyone.